Family analysis: In KA v MA (Pre-nuptial Agreement - Needs)  EWHC 499 (Fam), the Family Division upheld a pre-nuptial agreement where the wife had argued that she had been subject to duress, but made a needs-based award of £2.95m in excess of the sum provided for in the agreement. Georgina Hamblin, director, and Mia Harrison, associate, at Vardags, comment on the case.
What are the practical implications of this case?
The decision in KA v MA (Pre-nuptial Agreement - Needs)
follows a line of case law that firms up the existing law on pre-nuptial agreements following the landmark decision in Radmacher (Formerly Granatino) v Granatino
 UKSC 42,  2 FLR 1900
The decision reinforces the principles that:
- a pre-nuptial agreement, freely and fairly entered into, with the benefit of legal advice and financial disclosure and which brings about a fair outcome on divorce, will be upheld;
- there will only be a departure from the terms of that agreement when needs require it; and
- those needs are being less and less generously interpreted as the weight given to pre-nuptial agreements and the intentions behind them increases.
Needs, therefore, continue to be the trump card, but a less and less generously interpreted trump card.
In this case, Roberts J’s balanced judgment supported the parties’ autonomy in signing such an agreement, but found some of its provisions to be ‘unfair’.
Therefore, she awarded the wife the sum of £2.95m, which, although being well below the £6m the wife sought, was £1.35m more than she would have received under the terms of the agreement.
Roberts J acknowledged that the wife’s needs, as stated at £6m, would ordinarily be reasonable. However, she felt bound to revise them downwards in light of her finding that the agreement was fair in all the circumstances and that both parties had intended to be bound by it.